Stuck in the MUD

MUD was the first game that I played that combined multi-user with a Colossal Cave Adventure style narrative and gave every user a character in the story. Today it remains one of the “greats” as a first of its kind, along with Colossal Cave Adventure and Dungeon (Zork).

When I first became interested in computers, around 1974, I got my hands on some of the then current mini-computers such as the Hewlett Packard 2000 Access system. Aside from writing programs for the fun of it, there were pre-written games that were interesting and fun. The leading game on the gold HP2000 was the original Star Trek game, STTR1. By modern standards it is a simple game, but none the less, along with my friends, I wasted countless hours killing klingons. Around about 1978 another user on the HP2000 wrote a version of Star Trek which allowed two people to play against each other in pseudo real-time on two separate terminals. This was the first multi player game that I came across, and this was even more amazing to me and my friends who regularly wasted even more hours playing it sending each other threatening messages and destroying each others ships.

Shortly after this, the local computer centre introduced a new more sophisticated mini-computer, the Harris S125. This computer had a whole new genre of game called Adventure. Adventure was amazing, you were a character actor in your own story with a strong narrative and if you successfully solved all the puzzles and progressed to the end you could score the maximum points of 350/350. Somehow I never managed more than 349, and I am still not sure how the last point is earned.

Welcome to Adventure!!  Would you like instructions?

You are standing at the end of a road before a small
brick building.Around you is a forest.  A small stream
flows out of the building and down a gully.

Time moved on and I gained a home computer with a modem in around 1980 or 81. This was when things really became interesting for me. I could write my own programs, but I could also dial up and connect to bulletin boards. Bulletin boards are like the 4chan of the 1980s; places where you could exchange messages on anything from ASCII art soft porn pictures to user identities and access codes for big computer systems operated by universities and businesses. It was around this time that I obtained the details of how to access a whole new computer game called MUD or Multi-User Dungeon.

MUD was a game that combined that multi-user with the Adventure and gave every user a character in the story. These characters could interact and even “display” emotions as well move about and take actions within the general narrative. This was also my first online game, that is it was only available by connection over the telephone line to the Dec PDP10 at Essex University. Myself and other players would spend hours at night playing and chatting together in the game whilst working towards becoming a Wizard, a god like status in the game where you can rule over the mere mortals. After a while that was to prove rather expensive, but lets not worry about that.

Narrow road between lands.
You are standing on a narrow road between The Land and whence you 
came. To the north and south are the small foothills of a pair of 
majestic mountains, with a large wall running round. To the west 
the road continues, where in the distance you can see a thatched 
cottage opposite an ancient cemetery. The way out is to the east, 
where a shroud of mist covers the secret pass by which you entered 
The Land.

Anyway, the point of all this ramble is to paint a picture of the great old games that I liked to play and the great old computers that I liked to play them on. Now fast forward to 2018.

Similar to all old folk, I like to reminisce and I like to drift down memory lane. But when it comes to computers I want to recreate the old worlds that I used to inhabit; Start Trek, Adventure, and MUD.

So, with this in mind I have set out on a journey to recreate not only the games, but the very computers that they operated on. I have already set up my own HP2000 Access System thanks to the SIMH project, and that plays STTR1 just fine. Sadly the source code for the HP Access two terminal Start Trek called Nova is lost, I threw away the fanfold printed source in around 1994. However, the Dec PDP10 source for Adventure is available in the original Fortran language and thanks to a generous donation by the authors, Richard Bartle and Roy Trubshaw, the source code for MUD has also been made available for download. With this in mind I have decided to build my own Dec PDP10 system and see if I can get MUD running on it and I will blog about the steps to getting the system up and running over the next few weeks or months.

About Quentin

Im just a normal bloke.
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